Theories of Atonement: Christus Victor vs. Penal Substitution

In reading recently, I came across what I thought was an excellent description of the difference between the Christus Victor and the Penal Substitution views of atonement. @@@ I think this gets down to the ROOT of the difference between the two views.@@@ It has certainly helped me understand it more.

My selected quotes were written by Gregory A. Boyd, a Christus Victor advocate, in response to a Penal Substitution treatise (written by Thomas R. Schreiner) in a book that is like a debate among advocates for four of the theories of atonement: The Nature of Atonement: Four Views edited by James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy (InterVarsity Press Academic, 2006. ISBN-10: 0-8308-2570-3. ISBN-13: 978-0-8308-2570-7.)

Boyd is using the atonement as shown in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to help make his point, and the "deep magic" refers to God's "self-sacrificial love" [Nature of Atonement, Page 102] in Lewis' book.

"Because law and love are both equally deep magic for Schreiner [Penal Substitution advocate], the ultimate problem the atonement resolves is a legal conflict within the godhead. In contrast, for Lewis [Christus Victor advocate], God expresses holy rage, but 'God is love' (I Jn 4:8)." [Page 102]

What this says is that Love and Law are inherent parts of God's essence in Penal Substitution. With Christus Victor, Love is the inherent part of God's essence, and the Law (holy rage) is expressed by Him, but not an inherent part of His essence.

Furthermore, in the next quote, "a kill" refers to the demand that there be a death (at all) in order to bring atonement to mankind in his sin. (We are accustomed to knowing that a death was required for atonement, but this is from an academic perspective that God's forgiveness might not necessarily require a death.)

"Who demanded that the deep magic of the law be satisfied with 'a kill'? For Schreiner [Penal Substitution advocate], it is God. For Lewis (and most advocates of the Christus Victor view) it is the devil." [Page 103]

This quote may be a little more clear. Penal Substitution says that God the Father requires a death for forgiveness to be given. Christus Victor says that the demand for an atonement death does not come from the Father, but from the accuser, the devil. "God does not hold our feet to the fire of the law: satan, the 'accuser'...does (Rev 12:10; cf. Job 1-2; Zech 3:1)." [Page 103]

I hope this is not too confusing. I didn't realize the complexity of the context that these quotes would require. Anyway, I progressed much in my understanding and grasp of these two main views of atonement by seeing their root differences from this section, and I thought that I would share it (or at least try to!).

Respectfully, Clay

1 comment:

Joshua said...

I've heard of Christus Victor form a friend of mine; and your article help illumnate what he stated as well. It is still not clear to me; I understand the terms and the context in which they are used yet it seems still quite vauge to me. would these deffinitions be satisfactory?:

Penal Substitution-that Christ is punished instead of humanity, thus satisfying the demands of justice so that God can justly forgive. or that Christ suffered as a substitute on behalf of humankind satisfying the demands of God's honor.

Christus Victor-that Adam and Eve sold humanity to the Devil during the Fall, hence justice required that God pay the Devil a ransom to free us from the Devil, which God did by tricking the Devil into accepting Christ's death as a ransom since the Devil did not realize that Christ could not die permanently.

I just found a good website on the subject... (other than wikipedia)
Penal Substitution vs. Christus Victor

Woah this is some good stuff thanks Clay.